Prerequisites To Digital Transformation: Leadership And Culture

Leadership And Culture Go Together



Milos Topic
02/08/2019

When you hear the term digital transformation, what comes to mind? Who owns it; who does it, how and why? Is it about new technologies, or is it about digitizing our processes and moving them online while making them mobile friendly? Could it be that all of those things are simply smaller components of something much larger and a lot more elaborate and far reaching?

First, it certainly isn’t about moving paper forms online, even though some have looked at that as the low hanging fruit and a potential starting point on this never-ending journey. Others have moved their services to the cloud in search of leveraging scale and efficiencies provided by those solutions. However, digital transformation is truly about reimaging the entire business model and rebuilding it from the ground up, if needed. While technology serves as an essential partner and enabler of this process, leadership of the transformation is done by the business itself, including the executive leadership team who sets the tone and pace. This change necessitates rethinking the way business is ran from marketing, customer acquisition, research and development to sales and beyond. It is about reimaging what we do, who we serve and how do we provide value in a new, more contemporary way by leveraging available technologies and partnerships.

The concept of digital transformation is not new and it has been growing worldwide at a staggering rate. The overall investments are expected to reach $1.7 trillion (per IDC research) by the end of the year, which is an increase of 42% from 2017. Digital transformation is about empowering employees, engaging customers, optimizing operations and transforming products and services.

Empowering employees can come in many ways. Providing them freedom and flexibility to challenge status quo and try new things is essential. Some of these new ideas and risks will pay off, others will fail miserably. Both outcomes should be considered acceptable and people must be supported along the way.

Engaging customers is critical in today’s market where people have and want options. This requires all of us to not be nostalgic about how things used to be and move forward in a more open minded fashion. Get out there, meet people, listen to what they have to say, ask questions and then act on these valuable customer insights.

When it comes to optimizing operations, people should test, tweak, and reimagine how work is getting accomplished now. Automate everything where human touch doesn’t provide competitive value and enable people to focus on growing your business and improving your products and services, not data entry or many other mundane, repetitive tasks. They will thank you for it.

Finally, transforming products and services is the culmination of the above steps where organizations look for innovative ways to challenge their own operating models and revenue generating avenues before competitors do it for them which is inevitable.

To make progress in any of the above areas, we must consider our leadership and our organizational cultures as they matter, a lot.

Leadership

Let’s begin with what leadership isn’t. It’s certainly not about a corner office, a title or a bonus. It is not blindly following well-formed paths at all costs and it is not management, although management certainly has its value and place in organizations. Leadership is about setting the vision and inspiring others to see value and potential, starting with their own. Leadership is helping others succeed even if it delays or defers one’s personal goals. It is about putting the well-being of your colleagues and your team ahead of your own. Leaders are meant to empower others to succeed; they are there to provide resources for their teams and provide “air cover” when needed. Leaders take all the blame and share all the credit, they are integral to helping people believe in themselves and then in those who work alongside of them.

Culture

On the other hand, organizational culture is who we are collectively; what we value; how we operate and function and most importantly, what do we accept and tolerate. The astonishing power of organizational culture can be summarized in the words of late Peter Drucker who used to say that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Think about it and evaluate your own current environment, its politics, and decisions.

The Combination

Leadership and culture are perfect complements to one another as they impact and influence everything we do across our organizations. They are inseparable and should never be underestimated or overlooked. Leadership sets the tone of what is tolerated, accepted and what becomes the norm across organizations. Over time, these norms become woven into the fabric of organizational culture which then guide, shape and influence future directions, decisions and most importantly, actions. In short, rethink everything and do it together.

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